Saturday, April 30, 2011

Third Record of Southern Lapwing for Nicaragua

On a trip along the Rio San Juan on April 21, 2011, Manfred Bienert observed four Southern Lapwings (Vanellus chilensis) resting on a sand bank at river's edge, just a few kilometers upriver from the mouth of the Rio Sarapiquí.  This is only the third confirmed record of this species for Nicaragua: It was first reported on May 13, 2009, by Jörg Mellenthin, who found two adult lapwings at Siempre Viva Lagoon, Bonanza (RAAN). Manfred himself found another pair of Southern Lapwings along the northwestern shore of Lake Cocibolca, between Granada and Malacatoya, on October 23, 2010.  Southern Lapwing is now relatively common in Panama, has been confirmed to be breeding in Costa Rica, and appears to be slowly expanding its range northward through Central America. 

Southern Lapwings

Black & Common Terns at El Guayabo Wetlands

During an April 9, 2011 visit to the El Guayabo wetlands north of Granada, Manfred Bienert observed half a dozen Black Terns (Chlidonias niger) and 30-40 Common Terns (Sterna hirundo). 

Common Tern

Manfred also reports seeing several large groups of Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos), including one pair that appeared to be engaging in a courtship ritual, which Manfred believes could be evidence that this species is forming mating pairs here in Nicaragua before migrating north to its breeding grounds.

Pectoral Sandpipers in courtship

Monday, April 25, 2011

Birding Highlights from Northern Coffee Highlands

Michigan-based naturalists Julie Craves and Darrin O’Brien visited Matagalpa and Jinotega in early March 2011, and submitted the following report to NicaBirds:

"The first portion of the trip involved a banding project with a group from North Carolina (USA) at Finca Esperanza Verde from March 3-8.

Northern Bentbill
Approximately 102 species were observed with observation highlights including: a calling Barred Forest-falcon (Micrastur ruficollis), a calling Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata), and two Yellow-eared Toucanets (Selenidera spectabilis).  Banding highlights included a male Red-capped Manakin (Pipra mentalis), a male & female Long-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia linearis), a female White-collared Manakin (Manacus candei), and a male Blue-black Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa cyanoides). Recapture highlights included two Northern Bentbills (Oncostoma cinereigulare) from 2008 and a Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla) from 2006!

Long-tailed Manakin
A travel day on March 8th involved a stop for a partly rainy morning at Selva Negra.  Only 22 species were tallied, but Resplendent Quetzals (Pharomachrus mocinno) put on a show at the fruiting avocado trees of Sendero Romantico.  At least 3 males and a female were present, all giving excellent looks at their phenomenal tails and vocalizing repeatedly.  The big miss was Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculata).  Unbelievably, none were heard!

The remainder of the trip from March 8-12 was at El Jaguar Reserve, during their last MoSI pulse. A couple notable birds banded (for us, anyway!) included Violaceous Quail-Dove (Geotrygon violacea) and Ruddy Woodcreeper (Dendrocincla homochroa)

White-faced Quail-Dove

In addition to birds captured in the mist nets, 88 species were observed with highlights including: watching a foraging Little Tinamou (Crypturellus soui) behind the cabin, seeing a perched Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans) from the cabin’s porch, confirming Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) for the reserve’s bird list, and finding a new species for the reserve with two Northern Rough-winged Swallows (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)!

The entire trip tallied 163 species of birds.  However, insects were also in the scope with 20 species of dragonflies identified.  Not bad for high elevation in winter."

Help the "Alianza Yo No Tiro Basura!" clean up Laguna Xiloá

As part of this year's Earth Day celebrations in Managua, the Alianza Yo No Tiro Basura! ("I Don't Litter!" Alliance), which includes several wildlife conservation NGOs such as Paso Pacifico and Fondo Natura, is sponsoring a concert and clean-up of Laguna de Xiloá this coming weekend. Xiloá is one of several volcanic crater lakes near Nicaragua's capital, and is home to a number of resident and migratory bird species. For more information on how to participate in the clean-up, click the link below:

Alianza Yo No Tiro Basura!: Porque Xiloá?: "Este año, estamos enfocando en la Laguna de Xiloá - pero por qué esta laguna es tan especial? Mauricio Miranda de la organización ' Conexio..."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Audubon Magazine Feature on Nicaragua

When it comes to protecting natural havens for bird species, shade-grown-coffee farms are second only to virgin forest. A writer’s journey through Nicaragua illustrates just how key coffee farms can be for the well-being of a certain warbler...(more)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Agami Heron & Sungrebe on the Rio Papaturro

Agami Heron
Curtis Smalling reports that members of Audubon North Carolina (ANC) recently spent 17 days in Nicaragua visiting many sites from El Jaguar to Sabalos and observed 289 species, including nice looks at Red-capped, White-ruffed, White-collared, and Long-tailed Manakins.  The group encountered several Sungrebes (Heliornis fulica) during their trip, first on March 24, on the Rio Papaturro about halfway from Lake Nicaragua down to Los Guatuzos, then a couple days later on the Sabalos River very near the town of Boca de Sabalos. The ANC group was also delighted to find three Agami Herons (Agamia agami) along the Rio Papaturro in the more forested sections of the river.


Black-crested Coquette
Other avian highlights included Thicket Tinamou (Crypturellus cinnamomeus) at Domitila, Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) at Sabalos Lodge, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus) at Los Guatuzos, Plumbeous (Ictinia plumbea) and Mississippi Kites (Ictinia mississippiensis) at Finca Esperanza Verde, Scaled Pigeon (Patagioenas speciosa) at Sabalos, Mangrove (Coccyzus minor) and Striped Cuckoos (Tapera naevia) at Montibelli, Pheasant Cuckoo (Dromococcyx phasianellus) at El Jaguar, Northern Potoo (Nyctibius jamaicensis) at Montibelli, Black-crested Coquette (Lophornis helenae) at Sabalos, Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) at Selva Negra, Slaty Spinetail (Synallaxis brachyura) at Los Guatuzos, Bare-crowned Antbird (Gymnocichla nudiceps) at Sabalos, Eye-ringed Flatbill (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris) at El Jaguar, White-lored Gnatcatcher (Polioptila albiloris) at Domitila, Thick-billed Seed-Finch (Oryzoborus funereus) at Sabalos, Nicaraguan Grackle (Quiscalus nicaraguensis) at Laguna de Tisma, Yellow-billed Cacique (Amblycercus holosericeus) at Montibelli, and Elegant Euphonia (Euphonia elegantissima) at Selva Negra.

Bare-crowned Antbird (female)
In addition to the spectacular diversity of birds, the ANC group observed 11 species of mammals and 19 species of reptiles and amphibians during their visit to Nicaragua. This trip was organized and led by Dave Davenport of EcoQuest Travel, who has been leading birding groups to Nicaragua for several years, and who according to Curtis is a great supporter of bird conservation projects here. Curtis also notes that it was "good to see many of our partners in Golden-winged warbler research like Georges and Lili Duriaux and Salvadora Morales."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tufted Flycatcher & King Vulture at Cerro Mogotón

Hoping to relocate the Unicolored Jay (Aphelocoma unicolor) seen by Francisco "Chico" Muñoz and Anders Bringskog on February 20, 2011 -- the first record of this species for Nicaragua -- Liliana Chavarría and Georges Duriaux spent the weekend of April 15-17 visiting El Mogotón (Nueva Segovia), Nicaragua's highest peak, located on the border with Honduras.

Lili reports that bird activity was very low due to the extremely dry conditions this late in the season, and they were unsuccessful in finding Unicolored or any other jay species. Nevertheless, Georges and Lili were pleased to find six Tufted Flycatchers (Mitrephanes phaeocercus) on the slopes of Mogotón, along with three King Vultures (Sarcoramphus papa) flying only 10-15 meters above the ground in search of thermals.  Other highlights included Highland Guan (Penelopina nigra), Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata), Pheasant Cuckoo (Dromococcyx phasianellus), Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus frantzii), Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater), and Blue-crowned Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia occipitalis).

Tufted Flycatcher
Although they had hoped to camp on the mountain and put up mist nets to capture and inventory local birds, due to logistical difficulties Lili and Georges were unable to transport the necessary equipment up the slope. They hope to return at a later date to conduct a more thorough search for the jay, and other species of northern Central America that may not yet have been detected within Nicaragua.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chuck-will's-widow at El Jaguar

After hearing the distinctive call of a Chuck-will's-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis) just before dawn three mornings in a row, Klemens Steiof and Rob Batchelder located the bird on the evening of April 2, 2011, perched on a log just meters from their cabin at El Jaguar. In the Checklist of the Birds of Nicaragua (Lista Patrón de las Aves de Nicaragua, Martínez-Sánchez, 2007), this North American breeding bird is listed as a local winter visitor along Nicaragua's Pacific slope, from sea level up to 300 meters. In The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide, author Richard Garrigues describes Chuck-will's-widow as a "very uncommon (or seldom detected) NA migrant from Oct to April, mostly in lowlands," which is "usually silent" in Costa Rica, and presumably also in Nicaragua. This record is noteworthy not only because the bird was found at 1300 meters above sea level, but also because it was first detected by its call.  Chuck-will's-widow is a new addition to El Jaguar's impressive and growing bird checklist, which now stands at nearly 290 species.


During the same visit, Klemens and Rob helped add a second species to El Jaguar's list, a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), seen in a thicket in an open area of the reserve on the morning of Friday, April 1.  El Jaguar owners Liliana Chavarria and Georges Duriaux placed a mist net in the area where the Catbird was seen earlier in the day, and succeeded in capturing the same bird just as dusk was settling in.  Georges was able to document the new addition to El Jaguar's checklist with the help of a vehicle headlamp for lighting:

Gray Catbird

Other interesting birds that Rob and Klemens found during their four-day stay at El Jaguar included Highland Guan (Penelopina nigra), Black-and-white Owl (Ciccaba nigrolineata), Violet Sabrewing (Campylopterus hemileucurus), Emerald-chinned Hummingbird (Abeillia abeillei), Smoky-brown Woodpecker (Picoides fumigatus), Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner (Automolus ochrolaemus), Black-faced Antthrush (Formicarius analis), Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (Mionectes oleagineus), a dozen warbler species including Blackburnian (Dendroica fusca), Cerulean (Dendroica cerulea) and MacGillivray's Warblers (Oporornis tolmiei), White-naped Brush-Finch (Atlapetes albinucha), Blue Bunting (Cyanocompsa parellina), and Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater).

Highland Guan (male)
MacGillivray's Warbler

Violet Sabrewing

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Keel-billed Motmot at Selva Negra

Keel-billed Motmot
On the mornings of March 29 and 30, Klemens Steiof and Rob Batchelder recorded more than 90 species of birds at Selva Negra.  The most unexpected was a Keel-billed Motmot (Electron carinatum), calling from a perch near the top of the "Fountain of Youth" trail at 1500 meters above sea level. The bird sat obligingly for more than 10 minutes while Klemens took several long-distance photos. It then moved several times to nearby branches where Rob and Klemens were able to relocate it and enjoy clear views of the bird's red forehead and the large square-shaped black patch on its greenish chest. A week earlier, a visitor from Honduras had written in the "Wildlife Sightings" book at the reception desk that he had seen this species, along with many Resplendent Quetzales, but given Selva Negra's large trail network and the risk of misidentification, Rob and Klemens were very surprised to find this bird, which represents a new addition to Selva Negra's checklist.

Just seconds after bidding the motmot farewell and beginning their descent down the steep trail, Klemens and Rob were startled by the nearby call of a Nightingale Wren (Microcerculus philomela). While they had heard this species frequently at Cerro Musun just a few days earlier, the elusive wren had remained out of sight, and consistently fell silent in response to MP3 playback.  The Selva Negra wren, however, responded immediately and enthusiastically to a voice recording, taking up position on a fallen tree trunk just three meters from where the birders stood.  It remained in position, calling loudly, until both birders were able to locate the small, dark, non-descript bird in their binoculars.

Lower down, along the "Romantico" trail, Klemens and Rob found several very vocal Resplendent Quetzals (Pharomachrus mocinno). Earlier in the morning, they had had only fleeting views of a lone male Quetzal, and better views of a female near a nest. On the trip down the hill after seeing the motmot and the wren, however, the birders lucked upon two dazzling males who perched just above the trail, allowing incredible views and a few good photos too.

Resplendent Quetzal

Other noteworthy birds seen at Selva Negra included Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris), White-faced Quail-Dove (Geotrygon albifacies), Stripe-tailed Hummingbird (Eupherusa eximia), Green-breasted Mountain-gem (Lampornis sybillae), Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus), Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus), Band-backed Wren (Campylorhynchus zonatus), Slate-colored Solitaire (Myadestes unicolor), 13 warbler species, nine species of tanager including White-winged (Piranga leucoptera), and White-eared Ground-Sparrow (Melozone leucotis).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yellow-eared Toucanet at Cerro Musún

Inspired by Liliana Chavarría and Georges Duriaux's January 2011 mist nest capture of a rare Wing-banded Antbird (Myrmornis torquata) at Cerro Musún, Rob Batchelder and Klemens Steiof joined Lili, Georges, and Moises Siles on a return visit to Musún the weekend of March 25-28, 2011. The difficult 5-hour hike up the steep mountain trail, with camping gear and supplies in tow, paid off quickly when a female Wing-banded Antbird was captured within 20 minutes of putting up nets in the same location where Georges and Lili had captured this species (a male) on their last visit.  We continued to encounter this species over the next few days, at altitudes between 850 and 1150 meters, including several males that appeared to be defending territories.  Our informal census would seem to indicate that there is a healthy breeding population of Wing-banded Antbirds at Cerro Musun.

"El Motivo de la Expedicion"

Over the course of four days, Klemens and Rob saw nearly 70 other species of birds on Cerro Musún. For both birders, the unquestionable highlight was a very confiding female Yellow-eared Toucanet (Selenidera spectabilis) which sat silently on an exposed branch just above the trail for nearly 15 minutes, allowing Klemens to take a number of photos.

Yellow-eared Toucanet

Other noteworthy birds recorded during the expedition included Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias), Pheasant Cuckoo (Dromococcyx phasianellus), Violet-headed Hummingbird (Klais guimeti), Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata), White-ruffed Manakin (Corapipo altera), Mountain Elaenia (Elaenia frantzii), Royal Flycatcher (Onychorhynchus coronatus), Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus mexicanus), Mountain (Turdus plebejus) and White-throated Thrushes (Turdus assimilis), Carmiol's (a.k.a. "Olive") Tanager (Chlorothraupis carmioli), Rufous-winged Tanager (Tangara lavinia), and Green (Chlorophanes spiza) and Shining Honeycreepers (Cyanerpes lucidus).

Mountain Elaenia
Royal Flycatcher
Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush

While Rob and Klemens were off birding in the forest on Saturday afternoon, Georges, Lili, and Moises captured a female hummingbird which has yet to be definitively identified. Efforts to recapture the bird the following day, in order to take feather samples for lab analysis, proved unsuccessful. For now, the bird's identity remains uncertain, but below are pictures that Georges took of the mystery bird before it was released back into the wild...

Hawk Migration at San Carlos

While waiting for their flight back to Managua at the San Carlos (Rio San Juan) airport on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, Klemens Steiof and Rob Batchelder observed tens of thousands of north-bound Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura), Broad-winged Hawks (Buteo platypterus), and Swainson's Hawks (Buteo swainsoni). In the space of just one hour, large migrating flocks of these three species passed over the Rio San Juan and over the airport located to the northeast of the departmental capital of San Carlos. Turkey Vultures were the most abundant species, numbering in the thousands, while kettles of Broad-winged Hawks numbering in the hundreds were the second most abundant species. Individual Swainson's Hawks accompanying large flocks of the two aforementioned species were much smaller in number, but eventually one flock of more than 1,500 Swainson's crossed over the airfield heading north along the eastern shore of Lake Nicaragua.

White-whiskered Puffbird at Aguas Frescas

As part of their week-long visit to Refugio Bartola and nearby areas, Klemens Steiof and Rob Batchelder spent the morning of March 22, 2011, hiking the MARENA (Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales)-managed trail at Aguas Frescas, located in the Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve, about 5 km. down the Rio San Juan from Bartola. Although it rained most of the morning and the 3 km. path was treacherously muddy, Klemens and Rob found several dozen species of birds, including a lone female White-whiskered Puffbird (Malacoptila panamensis), which posed obligingly on an exposed branch just above the trail for several minutes.

Other interesting birds seen at Aguas Frescas included Blue Ground-Dove (Claravis pretiosa), Mealy Parrot (Amazona farinosa), Black-throated (Trogon rufus) and Slaty-tailed Trogons (Trogon massena), Rufous Motmot (Baryphthengus martii), Great Antshrike (Taraba major), Streak-crowned Antvireo (Dysithamnus striaticeps), Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea), and
Orange-billed Sparrow (Arremon aurantiirostris).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Central American Pygmy-Owl at Rio Sarnoso

On March 21, 2011, Rob Batchelder and Klemens Steiof spent the day exploring the Rio Sarnoso, a tributary of the Rio San Juan located approximately 10 km. downstream from the Rio Bartola, which penetrates deep into the interior of the pristine Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve in southeastern Nicaragua.  Fallen trees, rapids, and shallow water made the trip up the river quite an adventure, but guides Jonathan and Juan Jose (from Refugio Bartola) used their formidable skills to navigate the small boat past these obstacles.  Their efforts allowed Rob & Klemens to find a number of spectacular birds, including a Central American Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium griseiceps).

Other birds seen on this expedition included White-fronted Nunbird (Monasa morphoeus), Chestnut-colored Woodpecker (Celeus castaneus), Chestnut-backed Antbird (Myrmeciza exsul), Purple-throated Fruitcrow (Querula purpurata), Speckled Mourner (Laniocera rufescens), and Buff-rumped Warbler (Phaeothlypis fulvicauda).